Pitt’s Bruising Toughness on Display at Legends Classic

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 26th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Monday night’s Pittsburgh vs. Texas Tech game from the Legends Classic.

Texas Tech has a long ways to go before becoming a complete basketball team, but that doesn’t mean that the Red Raiders couldn’t have offered Pittsburgh its first real challenge of the season on Monday night. After all, when you begin the campaign with a quartet of opponents (Savannah State, Howard, Lehigh and Fresno State) sporting a combined 4-16 record versus D-I competition, any foe with a power conference membership may be enough to constitute a challenge. But any hope of a taut battle was quickly erased, as Pittsburgh used a 34-8 first half run to power themselves to a 23-point halftime lead, ending this Legends Classic semifinal before it ever really began. It was a dominant show of strength from a program quite accustomed to delivering them, but is this Panther team capable of conjuring up the echoes of past glory? Wins over Big-12 also-rans won’t answer that question in isolation, but Jamie Dixon seems to believe this Pitt team, as bruising and tough as so many of those that came before them, may have the talent and chemistry to do just that.

Lamar Patterson's Career Night (23 Points) Helped Undefeated Pittsburgh Surge To A 76-53 Victory Over Texas Tech

Lamar Patterson’s Career Night (23 Points) Helped Undefeated Pittsburgh Surge To A 76-53 Victory Over Texas Tech

Pitt’s 23-point victory was achieved despite an unusual Panther failing: Its opponent grabbed more rebounds than the men in blue and gold. Jamie Dixon’s teams have classically been downright fearsome on the offensive boards – their offensive rebounding percentage has been among the nation’s five best in four of the past five seasons – but the physical identity that Dixon breeds impacts the backboards at both ends. Dixon admitted that “rebounding hurt us tonight,” but the scoreboard showed that little else did. Pitt continued its early season display of offensive efficiency by making more threes (10) than lost turnovers (eight), along the way to making 16 of 21 free throw attempts. Dixon said after the game that he had felt like Pitt’s offense had been ahead of their defense all season long. With all due respect to a stellar Panthers effort on the defensive end (it took a late barrage of Texas Tech made field goals to lift their field goal percentage to just 39 percent for the evening), crisp ball movement and a career day from emerging leader Lamar Patterson (23 points on 8-of-13 shooting) certainly substantiated Dixon’s claim. The offensive precision is a great sign for Pitt. Dixon can turn a good defensive team into an elite one with his coaching; It’s far harder for him, or any coach, to turn an average shooting team into an excellent one.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Stanford in the Legends Classic

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 25th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: If you’ve heard much about Stanford this season, it is most likely because they scored 103 points against BYU – and lost. You can probably take away a couple of things from that little blurb, namely that Stanford’s defense isn’t very good but that their offense is. Still, BYU is no joke, so losing to a quality team like that isn’t necessarily a death knell and the Cardinal will have a chance to prove themselves on a national stage this week. Make no mistake, this is not only a talented team but it is also a veteran team with four seniors and three juniors among its nine-man rotation. Still, despite all that experience, none of these guys have yet learned how to win on a regular basis, so until they string together a number of  wins, there is plenty of reason to have lingering doubts.

Stanford Can Be Fun When They're Scoring, But Their Defense Is The Big Question (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

Stanford Can Be Fun When They’re Scoring, But Their Defense Is The Big Question (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

First Round Preview: The Legends Classic actually began last week, with Stanford taking care of Texas Southern in a inconsequential (literally of no consequence, as Stanford was going to advance to the semifinals in Brooklyn regardless of the outcome) regional round game. But tonight, the Cardinal will get the elimination portion of the tournament underway when it faces Houston in the nightcap of a pair of games at the Barclays Center. Houston hasn’t lost in five games, but its best win is over a middling Lehigh team. Given that last year’s best player, Joseph Young,  is playing for Oregon these days, this is not a team that should give Stanford too much trouble. Still, TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House are talented scorers, and sophomore point guard L.J. Rose – formerly of Baylor – is a quality point guard. It’s possible the Cardinal could draw this team into a shootout and simply outscore them, but Johnny Dawkins needs to make sure his team starts to buy in on the defensive end.

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Examining ACC Teams in Early Season Tournaments: Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 28th, 2013

As part of our preseason coverage on the ACC microsite, we will be looking at ACC teams competing in early season tournaments in a three-part series . Today we present Part II, which includes a look at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, the Paradise Jam, the Progressive Legends Classic and the EA Sports Maui Invitational.  To check out Part I of our series, click here.

These early season tournaments mean different things to different teams. For the traditional powers Duke and North Carolina, these events are just another part of the non-conference schedule, and not usually the most important part. With the national profile of those schools, building a quality non-conference slate is not all that difficult. But for others in the ACC, these tournaments are often the most challenging games those teams will face outside of league play. If you’re a potential NCAA Tournament team, a good performance in one of these events can considerably lessen the pressure to need a great league record to make the field.

Virginia's Early Loss to Delaware Last Season Badly Damaged Its RPI

Virginia’s Early Loss to Delaware Last Season Badly Damaged Its RPI

The opposite is also true, as Virginia found out last year. Losing to Delaware at home in the Preseason NIT gave Virginia a bad early loss and cost the Cavaliers a trip to New York, which would have improved their non-conference RPI and was a primary reason an 11-7 ACC team was left out of the field. Beyond just notching quality wins, the additional benefit is the RPI boost received from merely playing these games against other quality opponents. As Ken Pomeroy wrote in a March 2011 article, the RPI may not be a great metric but it is the main way NCAA Selection Committees sort teams. With 75% of a team’s RPI based on opponents’ RPI, poor performances in the non-conference schedule by multiple teams can damage an entire conference’s standing dramatically.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Indiana, Georgetown, Duke and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 27th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. I was extremely lucky to be sitting courtside for the first truly great game of this young college basketball season last Tuesday night in Brooklyn where Indiana defeated Georgetown in overtime to win the Legends Classic. IU head coach Tom Crean called it an “epic November battle” and boy, was it ever. The level of play displayed by both teams was incredible for this early in the season, something media row couldn’t stop buzzing about. It was as well-played a game I have seen in quite some time and the atmosphere in the building made it all the more special. Most folks thought we’d be seeing Indiana against UCLA in the championship game but it’s funny how fate works out. The Hoyas proved to be a much better opponent than UCLA and gave IU all it could handle. I’ll give you some of my thoughts on each of the four Legends Classic teams, starting with Indiana: You could call me a skeptic because I didn’t have Indiana pegged as a sure-fire Final Four team but the Hoosiers proved they’ll be in the thick of it come March. Indiana’s offensive attack is second-to-none in college basketball and I love the balance this team has. Jordan Hulls is as pure of a shooter as you’ll find but his leadership and defensive improvement are two things that can take Indiana to the next level. Hulls was all over the floor on both ends and Indiana’s best player in the two games at the Barclays Center. Crean has so many weapons to choose from including Hulls, Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and more. Oladipo’s athleticism is terrific while Zeller is Mr. Steady. Even Will Sheehey adds a spark off the bench with his leadership and intensity. Where does IU have to improve? Two areas stood out to me.

    Georgetown Players Had No Reason to Hang Their Heads (Washington Post)

    One, Zeller needs to get more touches. Part of that comes from him needing to work harder for position and demand the ball but it wouldn’t hurt if Indiana’s guards looked to him some more. Second is tightening up their defense. The Hoosiers showed a zone for a large part of the game and Georgetown took advantage with spectacular ball movement. Indiana is a better defensive team this year but it’ll have to tighten that up some more in order to win a national championship. I was overwhelmed by Georgetown’s ability to move the ball and get good shots. This shouldn’t be a surprise given past Hoyas teams but this may be John Thompson III’s best unit not in terms of talent but in terms of basketball IQ. The Hoyas probed Indiana’s defense with precision and overcame a talent disadvantage to the point of almost knocking off the top team in the land. Markel Starks is the most improved Hoya but Otto Porter is their undisputed leader and star player. Porter worked the high post all night against IU’s zone to rave reviews and was a strong presence on defense as well. Even in a loss, Georgetown established itself as a Big East contender. UCLA and Georgia rounded out the Legends Classic. The Bruins are an absolute mess defensively and the lack of hustle and intensity is a major red flag. Shabazz Muhammad made his debut and scored a lot of points but didn’t “wow” anyone. Kyle Anderson seems lost offensively and isn’t having the impact many thought he would. Jordan Adams looks like a future star but this team needs to start defending and playing with a purpose if it has any intention of saving Ben Howland’s job. Things are not pretty in Westwood, especially after Sunday night’s stunning collapse and defeat at the hands of Cal Poly. As for Georgia, it was clearly the worst of the teams in this event. That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs are a terrible team but I would be surprised to see them in NCAA contention. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a very good scorer but his shot selection leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t think Georgia is as bad as early losses to Southern Miss and Youngstown State would seem to indicate but I don’t see this team winning more than seven or eight games in the SEC. They do play hard and didn’t back down against two blue-blood opponents.

  2. Two of the 10,000+ people in the seats at the Barclays Center last Tuesday night were Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin, two Indiana freshmen currently serving out a nine game NCAA suspension for receiving impermissible benefits. Both players lost their appeal to have the suspension shortened and will not be eligible until Indiana’s game against Butler on December 15. This all stems from $6,000 to $8,000 in impermissible benefits received via Indiana Elite AAU coach Mark Adams, an individual deemed an Indiana donor because of a total of $185 in donations he gave to the university over 20 years ago, ironically before either of these two players was born. On this surface this seems like a severe miscarriage of justice, especially in light of Shabazz Muhammad’s outcome after a shady recruitment. Muhammad only had to sit out three games for UCLA while Mosquera-Perea, a four-star forward who is expected to contribute off the bench for IU, and Jurkin, a 7’0” center, have to sit out nine games (roughly 29% of Indiana’s regular season). Maybe it is. But look a little deeper and the situation gets murkier. Adams has a VERY close relationship with Indiana, so much so that the NCAA deemed it “unique access and continuous involvement.” As a result, Indiana has suspended its relationship with Adams until next July. Adams lived with Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin in Bloomington on multiple occasions according to published reports and has been involved with some former Indiana basketball players as well. Benefits provided to the players include, among other things, plane tickets, housing, a laptop and a cell phone according to a report in USA Today. It’s hard to make a decision when you look at the facts of the case but my hunch is the NCAA has more on these two players that it isn’t willing to make public. If that’s the case, it’s a shame. Transparency is not the NCAA’s forte and further feeds the criticism of the organization. The bottom line, from my perspective, is that I believe a suspension is warranted. Should that suspension be nine games based on the available facts? I don’t think so. Something more along the lines of what Muhammad received seems appropriate in this case. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: Thanksgiving Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 22nd, 2012

  1. Happy Turkey Day. What better way to escape the more unsavory members of your extended family and digest a few grams of sodium than by parking it in front of the tube for 10 or so hours of college hoops? The Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas has you covered, and Run The Floor compiled a very thorough primer to the event. Top-seeded Louisville takes the floor in the evening against a very prolific Northern Iowa offense that averages 1.25 points per possession and shoots 51.5% from the field, ranking them at the top of the field in both categories. Although the Panthers are 3-0, they’ve played dubious defense against a very weak schedule, spotting 81 points on 45% shooting at home to a 1-3 Toledo team that averages 62 PPG. It will be an interesting opportunity to determine if Louisville can generate enough offense outside of its transition game to overcome the most highly efficient shooting team they’ve encountered. It could also give fans some idea of what to expect in a future Louisville-Missouri or Louisville-Duke match-up later in the weekend.
  2. This is subject to change, with several of the national leaders playing after the M5 was filed last night, but Nick Coffey at Louisville blog The Cardinal Connect points out that Peyton Siva is quietly leading the nation in assists per game. Siva’s nine dimes per contest is likely to taper as the Cardinals’ competition steps up, although it’s plausible he could continue producing at that level after he sustained a 6.0 APG through the last postseason against elite competition. It’s interesting to note that four of the nation’s top 10 assist leaders come from the Big East, with Anthony Collins (#4, 8.2 APG), Michael Carter-Williams (#8, 7.5 APG), and Tray Woodall (#10, 7.0 APG) all joining the Cardinals’ point guard (according to StatSheet.com).
  3. Despite ultimately falling to Indiana in overtime of the Legends Classic championship game on Tuesday night, Georgetown’s performance in the Barclay Center this week earned them the adoration of pundits and almost assuredly a spot in the upcoming Top 25 polls. Hoya fans who had scoffed at the Shabazz-centric national coverage of Georgetown’s upset of UCLA in Brooklyn on Monday night were no doubt assuaged by the rave reviews of Otto Porter and company that circulated among major media outlets yesterday morning. Luke Winn wrote for SI.com that Georgetown had “established itself as a top 20 team,” and called Porter a legitimate first-team All-America candidate who had, on consecutive nights, “outplayed the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft (UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad) and the preseason favorite for the Wooden and Naismith awards ([Tyler] Zeller).” Despite the media praise heaped on Porter following the two complete games he put together in Brooklyn, he was puzzlingly left absent from the All-Tournament Team. Adam Zagoria yesterday pointed out the injustice that Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whose squad went 0-2 in New York, earned tournament recognition in his stead.
  4. Villanova’s blowout home loss to Columbia on Tuesday agitated a fan base already made anxious by Big East instability and the increasingly obvious importance of football to college athletics. Yesterday, Nova blog VU Hoops posted a history of Villanova athletics, and posed the question of whether the program that Rollie Massimino built can survive within a crumbling conference, without a major football program, and in an era when the national relevance of college hoops is dwindling. Author Brian Ewart presented a bleak outlook: “If that [Big East television] revenue source comes tumbling back to earth due to realignment and the basketball program continues to struggle, will the Wildcats be able to compete at a level that can earn 19 or more nationally-televised games as they have in the past?… Another disappointing season and Jay Wright will be worried about his employment status, but the Wildcats may not have the big time basketball brand or TV-money resources to find a big-time replacement.”
  5. Filed under the truly bizarre and slightly horrifying is the promotional holiday video for Providence athletics, which comes to us courtesy of Friarblog: 

    At first glance, it’s a totally innocuous pitch to sell season tickets. A contemplative Ed Cooley is interrupted from humming Christmas tunes at his desk by a miniaturized Cooley, decked out in Santa gear, who somehow wordlessly reminds him to peer at some hockey highlights through the lens of a paranormal tree ornament. All well and good, nothing to see here. Upon closer examination, some sinister implications bubble to the surface. For example: Is mini-Cooley housed cozily in a snow globe, or is it more of a millennia-old spiritual prison constructed to keep humanity safe from his prehistoric bloodlust, a la The Keep? Cooley is initially dressed in run-of-the-mill coach garb, but when his psychedelic hockey highlight montage subsides, he grins suggestively at us, draped in the Santa outfit of his thimble-sized doppelgänger. What happened to Big-Cooley? Has some interloper summoned his malevolent double, thereby imprisoning Big-Cooley in the snow globe in his place? Can Bryce Cotton save the day? Can Evil-Cooley do something to speed up Vincent Council’s rehab?
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Night Line: Another Year, Another Underrated Georgetown Team

Posted by EJacoby on November 21st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

It didn’t earn the victory in Tuesday night’s Progressive Legends Classic final against #1 Indiana, but Georgetown proved once again that it’s a painfully underrated team this season. The unranked Hoyas took the nation’s top-ranked team to overtime in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center after hanging around all night in an entertaining back-and-forth game that didn’t make John Thompson III’s team seem like the underdog. Riding the clutch performance of do-it-all sophomore star Otto Porter and the hot hand of junior Markel Starks, Georgetown competed with the Hoosiers and nearly converted back-to-back upset victories after defeating #7 UCLA on Monday. In the end it was Indiana with the 82-72 win in a solid performance that saw every Hoosier starter score in double figures, but it took an extra session to put away JTIII’s team. This season’s Hoyas flew under the preseason radar yet again, but they’ll be ranked in the top-25 come next week after an impressive showing in the Legends Classic.

Otto Porter has his Georgetown Hoyas back in the fold as a serious contender (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

Last season, the Hoyas were picked to finish tenth in the Big East’s preseason coaches’ poll before riding a consistent fringe top-10 overall ranking and finishing as an NCAA Tournament #3 overall seed. They at least earned a bit more respect from fellow conference coaches by being selected fifth in the 2012-13 Big East preseason poll, but G’Town once again looks like it has the talent, strategy, and toughness to compete with nearly anyone in the nation after taking top-ranked Indiana to the brink on Tuesday. It’s as if we had all forgotten about last season already, when the Hoyas lost leading scorers Austin Freeman and Chris Wright but didn’t miss a beat as fresh stars emerged with newfound roles. Despite three top dogs Jason Clark, Henry Sims, and Hollis Thompson all now gone this year, these 2012-13 Hoyas have again found former reserves to fill bigger roles and continue the consistent success of the Georgetown zone-heavy defense, Princeton-style offense, and overall winning program.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 82, Georgetown 72 (OT)

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2012

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from Indiana’s overtime victory over Georgetown on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts on Indiana’s thrilling overtime victory over Georgetown, the best college basketball game we’ve seen so far this season.

  1. Indiana’s defense down the stretch was terrific. The Hoosiers held Georgetown without a point for a five minute stretch late in the second half, a stretch that ultimately allowed them to win the game despite Georgetown’s comeback. Indiana led by eight with four minutes remaining in the game but the Hoyas chipped that away in the final few minutes. If it wasn’t for that scoreless stretch, Georgetown wins this game in regulation and Indiana is left questioning what went wrong. The Hoosiers have work to do defensively but coming up with extended stops like that in crunch time against a quality opponent has to give Tom Crean a lot of confidence going forward.
  2. Georgetown’s help defense allowed it to go toe to toe with Indiana. All night long, Georgetown’s front line defensive helpers made a huge difference against Cody Zeller and any Indiana guard who drove the lane. Georgetown had two or three guys blocking shots and it was hard for Indiana to operate in the lane. Despite all of that, Indiana was able to win the game which speaks volumes about its offensive ability. Jordan Hulls was able to drive and dish or score while Zeller made some nifty moves to evade the Hoya defenders. Georgetown wins with tight defense and for a while I thought they were going to knock off the #1 Hoosiers. The Hoyas defense gave them every chance to win, they just needed a little bit more on offense. 
  3. Both of these teams are going to make a lot of noise. We knew Indiana was good and it will contend for a Big Ten title but Georgetown proved tonight it could contend with the top teams in the nation. The Hoyas were every bit as good as Indiana tonight but ran out of gas in the extra session. Truth be told, it was a very good matchup for Georgetown. The Hoyas will take valuable experience from this one as they move towards Big East play in January. I did not have Georgetown ranked in the RTC Top 25 but that has to change after what I saw tonight even in a loss. John Thompson III gets a ton of credit for developing his players and keeping this program among the best in the nation year after year.
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ATB: Bruins Fall in Brooklyn, Chaminade Beats Rick Barnes Again, and Indiana Finds Other Scoring Options…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 20th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC National Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Shabazz Muhammad Gets A Harsh Welcome. In light of Friday night’s 11th hour news of freshman super-prospect Shabazz Muhammad’s reinstatement, an immediate upward revision of UCLA’s season expectations was very much in order. After all, Muhammad is, depending on your source, arguably the top freshman in the country, and a huge difference-maker for the Bruins’ chances of a major rebound to the upper echelon of the Pac-12 after several uncharacteristically down seasons. We got our first look at the Bishop Gorman product tonight, and the results were mostly what you’d expect from a guy getting his first taste of major college hoops. The potential was readily there — Muhammad scored 15 points in 25 minutes; the polish – that’ll come in time, with more game action and meaningful repetitions. The larger takeaway from Monday night wasn’t Muhammad’s debut. It was Muhammad’s team, and the way it dropped the ball in its first showcase game of the season. How did the Bruins, No. 1 recruiting class in tow, get worked at the Barclays Center? We shall explore…

Your Watercooler Moment. UCLA Not A Finished Product.

The debut of the No. 1-ranked recruit in the country, Muhammad, was overshadowed my Georgetown’s offensive execution (Photo credit: Getty Images).

The obligatory modifier for college hoops teams at this time of the year is one you’ve heard time and again: it’s still early. Teams need time to develop, to guess at different schematic adjustments and lineups, to grow comfortable in their respective offensive and defensive systems. This logic applies for most every team, but most of all for young and inexperienced ones. Which brings us to UCLA, and the Bruins somewhat surprising loss to Georgetown. The Hoyas spoiled Shabazz Muhammad’s debut by shooting over 50 percent from the field, getting 23 points from junior Markel Starks and unleashing sophomore Otto Porter from relative medical obscurity to great effect (18 points, 11 rebounds). UCLA looked disengaged and unorganized defensively. The Bruins didn’t click on the other end of the floor. Muhammad’s debut brought the mostly expected reality that this year’s No. 1 recruit is not – despite what this UCLA fan’s widly popular t-shirt solidarity might have you believe – a LeBron James-type basketball destroyer of worlds. If this was the Pac-12 championship game, or an NCAA Tournament contest, all measures of criticism and conclusion-drawing would be fair game. In this instance, UCLA’s first real run with a new roster against quality competition, chalk it up as a learning experience. UCLA will tighten things up defensively – Ben Howland’s coaching track record is a documental embodiment of defensive improvement. And Muhammad will learn how to play with rising star Jordan Adams. Missing out on a potential Final matchup with No. 1 Indiana isn’t the outcome Howland had in mind. It’s also not a doomsday scenario. Not in the least.

Also Worth Chatting About. Buzzer-Beating Madness in Maui. It didn’t take long for college hoops to provide us the first truly memorable slice of buzzer-beating hysteria. This one came courtesy of Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke, whose uncharacteristically poor shooting streak (he finished 7-of-21 and 4-of-14 from three) did a complete 180 when Butler needed it most. Butler trailed Marquette by two with eight seconds remaining in regulation when Clarke received the inbound pass, drove the length of the floor and netted a one-handed off-balance leaner – after which his teammates, expectedly, piled on to celebrate. The dismissal of Chrishawn Hopkins late this offseason left Butler with a dearth of perimeter scoring. It made Clarke’s transfer even more crucial. He may not own Hopkins’ ability to create and score off the bounce. What he does have is a lethal three-point stroke, and apparently one that glosses over whatever struggles felled him the previous 40 minutes.

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Breaking Down the Five Best Non-Conference Tournaments

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 22nd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

For the first time this offseason, thanks to new NCAA legislation allowing coaches to work with their teams over the summer, coaches began official practice with a good grip on what to expect from their teams this season. This is a generally positive development. It helps eliminate some of the rust players typically carry into fall workouts, allows coaches to begin formulating and implementing tactical tweaks earlier than usual, and gives incoming freshmen a chance to leave a positive first impression while benefiting from a longer and more relaxed transition into their college careers. Sadly, this takes some of the luster off Midnight Madness, which is traditionally viewed with excitement and anticipation as the official start of hoops practice and the symbolic commencement of another season-long slate of hardwood drama. But from a coaches perspective, getting an early look at your team before the usual date would seem like a positive change of pace, if nothing else.

All the Hoosiers need to do is sneak by Georgia to do battle with a promising UCLA squad in the Legends Classic final (Photo credit: Sandra Dukes/US Presswire)

With teams starting preseason preparations early this year, some of the usual sloppiness of non-conference play should be replaced by a more crisp and disciplined brand of basketball. This hypothesis may or may not bear fruit, but whatever the effect of the rule – whether it better conditions teams for promising starts, or eliminates the intensity of fall preseason workouts – the value of an extended offseason program will be put to the test in rather abrupt fashion with the annual slate of non-conference tournaments. These little events spring up stateside just as much as they do in island states and commonwealths, from Las Vegas to Brooklyn, Hawaii to Puerto Rico, and pretty much anywhere with a basketball court, hotels and some bleachers. It’s awful hard to keep track of them all, so I’ve chosen five events to narrow your focus. Each fixture is intriguing in its own way, and a variety of factors went into constructing the list. Exciting games between top teams carried the most weight.

On a side note: I decided to exclude mega-events such as the ACC/Big Ten and SEC/Big East Challenges, as well as the Preseason NIT. Those are great events, no doubt, but they’re great events each and every year. Plus, they don’t fit the categorical purpose of this exercise, so listing them here is unnecessary. I also excluded mini-events such as the Gotham Classic, Jimmy V Classic, Champions Classic and Wooden Classic in favor of actual tournament-style events.

1. Legends Classic 

  • Where: Barclays Center; Brooklyn, New York
  • Teams: Indiana, Georgia, UCLA, Georgetown
  • When: November 19-20
  • Bracket

Before we get to breaking down the matchups, the venue – the state of the art Barclays Center, which offers a cutting-edge food-ordering app, free wi-fi and the very real possibility you might spot hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, 2013 Super Bowl halftime diva Beyonce, or both – is a spectacle on its own, an urban hoops palace taking a lead role in modernizing the sports viewing experience with unprecedented technological amenities. Watching basketball played on that court is exciting no matter what teams inhabit it. Then you take a shiny new stadium and put two Top 25 squads on the floor, both of whom will still be figuring out their lineups and rounding into form, and it’s hard to envision anyone being disappointed by the end product. If Indiana can get by Georgia in one semifinal and UCLA takes care of business against Georgetown in the other (which, admittedly, is far from a guarantee), the championship game could make for one of the upcoming college hoops calendar’s best non-conference games altogether, let alone the bracketed tournament variety. Indiana will get its first real test of the season, while UCLA may still be feeling things out with an expected freshman-heavy lineup. If I had my druthers, I’d rather see this game played later on in the  schedule, mostly because of the very real possibility that No. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad won’t be available due to an ongoing NCAA review of possible violations committed during his recruitment. With Muhammad, the potential Indiana-UCLA Final is a Final Four-worthy bout. Without him, it’s exciting but incomplete, insofar as it won’t accurately gauge the Bruins at full strength against another legitimate national title contender.

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UCLA Week: Scheduling 101

Posted by AMurawa on August 16th, 2012

UCLA’s schedule was just about finalized last week when their regional matchups for the Legends Classic were announced (UC Irvine and James Madison). There are still times and television schedules that need to get cleared up, but for the most part we now know their opponents. Below, we’ll highlight a handful of games and stretches of the season that could determine the eventual fate of the 2012-13 Bruins.

Early-Season Tournament: The regional round games for the Legends Classic sure aren’t much on paper, but then again, in the last three seasons UCLA has lost in early non-conference play to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee (2011), Montana (2010), and Cal State Fullerton and Portland (2009). In other words, while many will count UC Irvine and James Madison as wins for the Bruins, let’s actually see them get it done first. But, much more interesting are the Bruins’ games once they make the trip to Brooklyn for the Legends Classic. They’ll open the elimination portion of the tournament with a Georgetown team that features a group of talented youngsters before facing either Indiana or Georgia in the second game in as many days. Of course, everyone is eyeing that potential UCLA/Indiana matchup in the championship game, but most importantly, if everything comes together for the Bruins early, they could have two quality wins prior to Thanksgiving.

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Breaking Down a Potential UCLA-Indiana Final in the Legends Classic

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 7th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Playing formidable competition in early season invitational tournaments is the best way to build a solid RPI foundation upon which to base the rest of your non-conference schedule. In recent years, as teams have adjusted to the notion that non-league scheduling does, in fact, have an appreciable affect on the bubble cut line come Selection Sunday, these tournaments have provided some intriguing matchups featuring national title contenders. The Legends Classic, one of the more anticipated tournaments in the early season college hoops calendar, released its bracket Monday. The 12-team field, on the whole, is a bit underwhelming, but tournament organizers did do us the favor of setting up a potentially epic finale on November 20 at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Indiana and UCLA, after staging two regional round games on their respective home courts, will need to win only one game against a power conference team before meeting in the tournament’s final game. If UCLA can sneak by Georgetown and Indiana takes care of business against Georgia, the two surefire preseason top-five outfits will put it all on the line for the Legends Classic crown.

Joshua Smith, UCLA

The Legends Classic bracket features two national championship contenders in Indiana and UCLA (Credit: Associated Press).

That’s must-see viewing for any college hoops fan, a tantalizing early season matchup of Final Four-worthy opponents. With more than three months remaining before the bracket kicks off, there’s plenty of time to salivate over this enticing showdown. But in these news-bereft late summer months, where Midnight Madness can’t come soon enough, I’m bringing you a way-too-early positional breakdown of what figures to be one of the best non-league fixtures in the upcoming season. To take this a step further, I’ll provide a prediction, score included, as a way of sparking the debate for which team is better positioned to make good on their considerable preseason hype. Remember, Georgetown or Georgia could knock off UCLA and/or Indiana in the semifinals and thus prevent the more favorable and altogether more entertaining finals matchup. But if the Hoosiers and Bruins are indeed what most preseason prognosticators are making them out to be, they should both advance to the championship round. Still, there’s no guarantee, so take this predictive exercise at face value.

Point guard: Yogi Ferrell/Jordan Hulls vs. Kyle Anderson/Larry Drew II

If Ferrell outplays hulls in preseason practice, Crean likely will insert him into the starting lineup in time for this highly-touted matchup. Ferrell is a true point guard who penetrates and finishes at the rim, but scoring won’t be his primary responsibility this season; facilitating the group of talented finishers around him—guys like Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller—is the first order of business. Hulls has been around long enough to remember discernibly darker days in Bloomington, the pre-Kentucky upset era—faraway as it may seem—and can make up for his deficiencies on defense with experience, leadership and pinpoint three-point marksmanship. He may ultimately start alongside Ferrell at the two. Countering the Hoosiers’ duo is Anderson, one of the more intriguing skills-to-size prospects in the 2012 class. At 6’7″, Anderson poses a major athletic and size advantage over most every point guard, yet he also boasts the shrewd ball handling, court vision and mid-range touch to excel at the position. He functions efficiently on the low block, posting up defenders and finding open shooters on the perimeter. Drew II, a year after transferring from North Carolina, will challenge Anderson for the starting job. Both players should see significant floor time this season, and they could split minutes in this early nonleague tournament.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 06.01.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on June 1st, 2012

  1. UCLA and Arizona have their 2012 blockbuster recruiting classes all sewn up, with up  north, Washington mostly struck out. But all eyes begin to turn to the 2013 class, and it could be Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies who are in a position to score big. Romar landed his first verbal commitment this week as 6’3” guard Nigel Williams-Goss, regarded as a four-star prospect, chose Washington over UCLA, Oregon  State, and UNLV (a school he once committed to prior to head coach Lon Kruger’s defection to Oklahoma). While one four-star guard does not a recruiting class make, Romar still has his eyes on players like Jabari Parker (the number one overall prospect), Aaron Gordon (the number two rated power forward), Jabari Bird (the fourth rated off-guard), and Isaac Hamilton (the fifth rated off-guard) among others.
  2. Aside from offseason trouble, some typically minor tweaks to rosters and the shaping of the 2013 recruiting class, the other big news that can be expected throughout the summer is the trickling out of teams’ 2012-13 schedules. UCLA’s calendar dropped on Thursday, with the highly-regarded Bruins reopening Pauley Pavilion on November 9 with a visit from Indiana State. Ben Howland’s club will also host Long Beach State and Missouri (along with a handful of low-major schools), play San Diego State in the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, and participate in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with potential matchups against Indiana, Georgetown, and Georgia. Here’s hoping the Bruins find matchups with both the Hoosiers and the Hoyas awaiting them in New York.
  3. Elsewhere around the conference, schedules are starting to take shape. Late last week, it came out that Colorado after a year away, would be renewing its competition with long-time opponent Kansas. While nothing is official yet, both schools have confirmed that an agreement is in place for the Buffaloes and Jayhawks to schedule a home-and-home series in each of the next two seasons. It’s unclear yet exactly where the 2012-13 edition will be played, but while Kansas has had Colorado’s number on a regular basis in their meetings, head coach Tad Boyle certainly has the Buffs on the upswing and his squad should be able to give the Jayhawks a couple interesting games. Down south, Arizona has added games with Charleston Southern, Long Beach State and Southern Miss. While none of those three teams is a huge name, both Long Beach State and Southern Miss made the NCAA Tournament last year and should provide solid challenges for an already strong Arizona schedule. The Wildcats are still looking to add two more games, both of which are expected to be home-and-home series’.
  4. Continuing our tour around the conference, Oregon State is on the verge of breaking ground on a new basketball practice facility. The structure will be a four-story structure with a couple different regulation-sized basketball courts layer in with locker rooms, support areas, offices and an entrance to the facility that will feature an Oregon State basketball hall of fame. With the upgrade in facilities, head coach Craig Robinson hopes to be able to induce a higher caliber of recruit to Corvallis.
  5. Lastly, last week Pacific Takes unveiled a feature on the ten best sleeper recruits in the last decade, with Kyle Weaver of Washington State leading the way. Interesting to note that of the 14 players on the list (including a four-man honorable mention), six of the players (Weaver, Derrick Low, Brock Motum, DeAngelo Casto, Robbie Cowgill and Reggie Moore) matriculated to Washington State. This speaks well for the Cougar coaching staffs’ (beginning with Dick and Tony Bennett and continuing to current head coach Ken Bone) ability to target under the radar players and develop the talent once it arrives on campus. Given that five-star recruits are rarely going to find their way to Pullman, that is a must for the Cougs.
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